Omnitracs' Road Ahead blog

Let Telematics Break the Cycle of Repeated Inefficiencies this Groundhog Day

Jeff Champa
Vice President, Product Management

Groundhog Day used to be a fun but mostly nonsensical holiday that signified either the coming of spring or the extension of winter. Then came 1993, and Hollywood gave the holiday a whole new meaning. That’s the year that the much-beloved, highly regarded film Groundhog Day first got people laughing and thinking.

It’s thanks to the movie that the phrase “Groundhog Day” became part of America’s cultural lexicon. Typically, it’s used to describe a situation in which the same mistake or mistakes are repeated over and over again. 

It’s a problem that affects both people and institutions and one that, for a business, can be costly. But for many industries, including trucking and transportation, technology now exists to reduce or even eliminate the costly Groundhog Day kind of mistakes that repeatedly snarl operations, perpetuate inefficiencies, inflate costs and generally frustrate drivers, managers and customers alike.

The only question is whether those in the industry, ranging from CEOs and CFOs down to dispatchers and drivers, are committed to using some or all of that technology to improve their operations, grow profits and prevent the term “Groundhog Day” from ever again being used about them.

Stop repeating outdated practices and bad habits 

As a part of the greater manufacturing and logistics sector of the economy, trucking inherently involves lots of repeatable processes. The problem is that outdated practices, traditions, unnecessary inefficiencies, predictable disruptions, and frequent mistakes can easily become a part of those repeatable processes. However, trucking firms that succeed both today and in the future will tend to be those that find ways to use data-driven insights to streamline their operations and rid themselves of those inefficiencies, outdated practices and traditions that no longer make sense. 

That’s why the data revolution taking place in the trucking and transportation industries today is such a big deal.

Carriers can create bright futures for themselves, their drivers, and their customers with technology. This is possible when equipping trucks, trailers, goods, and drivers with technology that can collect data and then feed those data streams to powerful software. 

The various software systems available to truck operators today can take data from various onboard sensors, GPS devices and even cameras and make sense of it all. The most simplistic of analysis is in the context of a truck’s mechanical performance and the driver’s performance. However, more advance data analysis can lead to a number of valuable insights, a few of which are revealing traffic patterns and congestion, real-time delivery information, and ultimately can even predict the likelihood of accidents and driver turnover. By effectively using all that data and resulting insight, trucking companies can generate double-digit cost savings, earn big annual jumps in revenue, and realize significant year-over-year improvements in their return on investment.

Use technology to find more efficient operations

Perhaps the easiest-to-understand use of trucking technology as a way of improving operations has to do with installing mechanical monitoring systems on the trucks themselves. By monitoring dozens — or even hundreds — of data points on any given truck and tracking that data across whole fleets, companies can gain better insight into the mechanical reliability of their vehicles. With that knowledge they can better plan for trips to the garage and reduce the number of expensive and disruptive breakdowns in the field.

Technology also can help better plan delivery routes in ways that will please customers and drivers alike by getting goods where they need to be exactly when they need to be there and drivers home exactly when they want to be there. And it can help companies better manage the loading of trailers to maximize their revenue-earning potential.

The smart use of systems in the process of hiring, training and managing drivers also can help improve a driver’s quality of life and reduce the staggeringly high driver turnover rate at many, even most, trucking companies. 

In Groundhog Day, Murray’s character, a jaded Pittsburgh TV weatherman assigned to report on the cheesy celebration of Groundhog Day at Punxsutawney, Penn., gets stuck in a time loop in which he repeats the same day over and over for years and years. 

Learning to smartly use the technology available to trucking firms — from single-driver operations all the way up to monster fleets — is the way out of what, in effect, is the trucking industry’s time loop and the path to improved performance, happier people, and bigger profits.